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Mon, 8th Sep 2014

Bereavement suppresses the Immune System

Old Couple (c) By Ian MacKenzie (Flickr: Old Couple) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever heard of someone dying of a broken heart? In fact, it is remarkably common for elderly people who were previously healthy to die soon after their spouse. But why? New research from the University of Birmingham has discovered that it is down to reduced functioning of the immune system during times of stress. This leaves older people susceptible to bacterial infections like pneumonia, which can be deadly. 

At the British Science Festival, Ginny Smith caught up with Dr Anna Philips and asked her why she had decided to study the health of people after they had lost a loved one. 

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